With ongoing discussions surrounding the funding and support of University of Connecticut cultural centers, The Daily Campus shares the worries expressed by members of the student body and by those involved with these necessary organizations.
A Sept. 14 statement from the University of Connecticut Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODI) addressed widespread student concerns over the level of funding being allocated to UConn’s cultural centers and programs. The ODI said that, although the same pool of resources under the ODI umbrella as last year is being redistributed among more cultural centers and programs, there are no official budget cuts in the works. This administrative language, however, is not enough to quell the valid concerns of students who have expressed worry not just over if cultural centers and programs are being defunded, but also whether they’re being resourced enough in the first place.
Who are administrators to say if marginalized communities at UConn are asking for too much, especially given the university’s current list of budgeting priorities? There is one department whose functions are not only peripheral but sometimes at odds to the well-being and advancement of students; one that receives huge amounts of funding without substantially helping nearly at all in the way that cultural centers and other spaces which support marginalized communities do: The UConn Police Department.
The Daily Campus Editorial Board would like to propose a solution. In keeping on brand with conversations of funding reallocation — as mentioned in the ODI statement — we believe there exists a more equitable way to distribute financial support from one university organization to another: Fire a cop, fund a cultural center.
It might seem like a strange solution, but its sheer intuitiveness and simplicity makes it the perfect salve for any current or future budget issues that cultural centers and programs may encounter. Why must the ODI — or any other critical resource at UConn, for that matter — continually do burdensome financial calculus, per their statement, when abundant plots of cash can be made available by “letting go” of a cop?
According to an online job listing, UCPD pays its officers a starting salary between $57,354 and $75,468, with an additional $5,000 stipend – what we assume to be either a signing or holiday bonus. A drop in the bucket of UCPD’s $18 million budget, the annual salary of one officer dwarfs the funding of the Native American and Middle Eastern Cultural Programs combined. Coupled with the 100 officers UCPD currently employs, there lies plenty of room in their $18 million bucket to spare.
In thinking about budgets as an argument of the university — a quantifiable, financial representation of their interests and priorities — it has become glaringly clear that UConn exists to promote a militarized police authority at a significantly higher rate than our cultural centers. We are disgusted by the university’s blatant disregard for racial and cultural representation while sustaining the presence of campus police, a regime which both does little to prevent and is related to continued bias incidents against marginalized identities on campus. Furthermore, the student body remains unsure of the necessity and effectiveness of UCPD’s occupancy on campus. However, the discourse of the past week has confirmed the student body’s absolute support of cultural centers and their contributions towards creating inclusive and safe on-campus resources for members of marginalized communities.
Where UConn’s funding is going — and possibly more importantly, where it is not going — matters. As we continue our attempt to convince the university of the value and importance of cultural centers, we must remind ourselves of how they are spending the money they have threatened to take away from student resources. Multi-million dollar investments into hydrogen power — an alternative which has yet to prove its sustainability — hockey rinks and a maintained financial connection to the military-industrial complex serve as recent examples of UConn’s preference for revenue over equity.
Although not all of these expenses have come out of the university’s pocket, the notion of financial fungibility and the freeing up of financial resources begs the question of why UConn continues to hold the funding of cultural centers — and other valuable student resources — over their heads. The university cannot follow through on their mission statement promise to “…embrace diversity and cultivate leadership, integrity, and engaged citizenship in our students, faculty, staff, and alumni,” if they continue to prioritize policing, profit and control over diversity, equity and inclusion while leaving cultural centers out to dry.